Note: This article first appeared in the Library of Congress Gazette, Volume 13, No. 43 December 6, 2002 by Deborah Durham-Vichr

BEAT Projects Help Catalogers, Reasearchers, Find Information Online

More than 200 people gathered Nov. 12 in the Mumford Room to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bibliographic Enrichment Advisory Team, better known as BEAT. In the course of the four-hour event, six team members presented the results and tools of an ever-growing family of BEAT projects, all of which aid catalogers, reference specialists, and researchers in creating and locating information.

John Byrum Jr., BEAT founder and chair, addresses the 200+ audience in the Mumford Room Nov. 12.
Photo by Charlynn Spencer Pyne


Like those in the audience, BEAT’s 18 members represent a broad spectrum of Library Services directorates, from cataloging and operations to area studies and public service collections. Together, their work over the past 10 years has allowed users all over the world to access richer and more timely information in Library records—adding to the Library’s ability to maintain a leadership position in digital bibliographic and archiving fields.

Beacher Wiggins, director for cataloging and acting associate librarian for Library Services, was the day’s kick-off speaker. “In many respects, it’s extraordinary that you’ve accomplished so much and that these accomplishments represent a voluntary group, started in Cataloging, that has expanded over the past decade to include folks from various areas of Library Services,” Wiggins said. “Your work truly exemplifies what collaboration and self-motivation can achieve.”

In truth, BEAT’s work has been very successful—as well as diverse. John Byrum Jr., chief of the Regional and Cooperative Cataloging Division and BEAT chairman, described early BEAT accomplishments. They included TCEC, a text-capture and electronic-conversion project that created software and programs to allow catalogers to create bibliographic records without rekeying information; BEOnline (Business and Economics Online), which provided both bibliographic and direct access to selected online resources and is now BEOnline+; the digital conversion of LC Classification; and LC Subject Heading enrichment.

All projects, current and past, demonstrate what can be done with few resources, the Internet, and people working together in a collaborative environment, Byrum said. “Although some projects are the undertaking of a single person, without exception, they affect and improve a multitude of users’ experiences in searching for information online.”

Beacher Wiggins, acting associate librarian for library services and cataloging director, makes opening remarks at BEAT's celebration.
Photo by Charlynn Spencer Pyne


“But the real heroes are catalogers who create bibliographic records and reference librarians and others who create pathfinders and portals, enabling our projects to work,” he said.

Lowe Grant

Ten years ago, the Internet was starting to take off, and the Library’s Cataloging Directorate was undergoing transformation, said Byrum. In late 1992, a small group of reference librarians and tech-savvy catalogers got together as a result of a grant from the Edward Lowe Foundation. “It was unprecedented to receive gift money to support cataloging research and development,” he said, acknowledging the strong endorsement given to BEAT during its start-up by then director for cataloging Sarah E. Thomas and thereafter by Beacher Wiggins. Because of the foundation’s focus, BEAT’s first products were related to business and economics, such as the “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Small Business Information.”

Byrum said BEAT’s goals were simple: To develop new tools in creating and locating information; develop innovative workflows and policies; prepare pilot projects with the ability to “scale-up” in an environment of limited resources; and develop these projects without affecting other processes and systems in place at the Library. With these guidelines in place, the family of BEAT’s projects grew.

Family of Current Projects

Looking to the future and inviting all to join BEAT, team members presented six current projects that illustrate the impacts BEAT continues to have.

David Williamson, cataloging automation specialist, Cataloging Directorate, discussed “Family Ties: Linking Records, Contents, and Resources.” Williamson’s several projects, such as Online Information eXchange (ONIX) and Digital Table of Contents (D-TOC), enhance Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) records with information not normally provided in a catalog record, including publisher-supplied data such as tables of contents and publisher descriptions.

Carolyn Larson presents her project BeCITES+, which enriches bibliographies and digitizes public domain monographs as well as LC guides.
Photo by Charlynn Spencer Pyne


“We must provide more information online,” said Williamson. “Students who want to know something prefer the frenetic chaos of the Web over the drudgery of the Library. That’s not good.”

Williamson is working with the megasearch engine Google to ensure that Web users are linked to many more of the Library’s enhanced records created with D-TOC and ONIX TOC/Publishers Descriptions. As of Nov. 20, there had been 1,033,868 visits to the Library’s TOC Web pages through these projects, and BEAT expects the figure to rise significantly. Williamson manipulates links to bibliographic records though automated means, making a very cost-effective enhancement to the Library’s files. His latest initiative is to match works in the public domain on the Web, so that users can access complete electronic text copies.

Carolyn Larson, business reference specialist, Science, Technology, and Business Division, then presented BeCITES+ (Bibliographies plus: Enhanced Citations with Indexes, Tables of contents, Electronic resources and Sources cited), an outgrowth of BEAT’s Digital Table of Contents project. Initially BeCITES+ focused on enhancing staff-produced bibliographies as well as related catalog records, by adding, with permission of the publishers, links to the tables of contents, indexes, and sources cited in the bibliographies. “Wherever the user comes across a record, they can move seamlessly from the OPAC to bibliography, or from the bibliography to the OPAC record,” said Larson.

But BeCITES+ does more than that. Using the same techniques of scanning and OCR that are used to convert tables of contents and indexes to electronic form, the BeCITES+ project is also digitizing public domain monographs cited in LC guides on the Web as well as out-of-print LC guides, such as “Thomas Jefferson’s Library,” the record of books that Jefferson sold to the Library.

John Celli, chief of the Cataloging in Publication Division (CIP), discussed “New Books — Son of CIP.” The New Books project provides the library community and the public with a rich source of information about soon-to-be-published and just-published books.

Building on the Electronic CIP (ECIP) program, New Books will obtain additional data elements from publishers and automatically generate New Books records that will be posted on the Library of Congress home page available to readers all over the world.

When accessed via the Library’s home page, a New Books record would include a link so readers can request a copy of the book at their local library through a partnership program with the Library. Celli also noted that New Books could also generate an alert service that would support collection development and book acquisition.

Reginia Reynolds, BEAT member and head of the National Series Data Program, at the event's candle-topped program.
Photo by Charlynn Spencer Pyne


Gabe Horchler, a team leader in the Social Sciences Cataloging Division, titled his presentation “Look Ma, No Gaps! Web Access to Publications in Series.” He said think tanks, research institutes, universities, central banks, and international agencies publish a mass of working papers and research reports. Acquiring and processing these materials in print form have always been problematic, and consequently there are many gaps in the Library’s holdings, said Horchler.

However, the Internet is a godsend. Most monographs from these sources are now published electronically, and this BEAT project hunts down links, often through partnerships with the publishing institution. Via this project, catalogers have added links that allow access to more than 13,000 individual electronic titles. While gaps in collections of hard copy versions still remain—and most likely will—it is now possible to fill them in with electronic versions. With this project, said Horchler, “We’re doing a better job of what we should have been doing all along.”

Librarians have long sought to bring order to Internet chaos by collecting and aggregating Web sites, said Everette Larson, head of the Reference Section in the Hispanic Division, in his presentation, “Cousins by the Dozens, Why Librarians Love Our Portals.”

Area Studies reference librarians have selected specific sites, annotated site selections, arranged them geographically under topics of interest, and then recommended specific sites for full cataloging, all under the rubric of Portals to the World, available on LC’s Web site.

“The BEAT program has allowed us to catalog, not only portals, but also noteworthy World Wide Web sites that may be searched through LC’s online public catalog,” Larson said. “Most of the libraries that link to us do so because we provide help for them, and it’s these helpful links that librarians love.”

Allene Hayes, Computer Files and Microforms team leader in the Special Materials Cataloging Division, and Gina Jones, a digital conversion specialist in the Public Service Collections Directorate (PSCD), traced the development of selecting, cataloging, archiving and accessing Web sites from BEOnline to MINERVA in their presentation.

Hayes spoke first and recounted BEOnline’s experimental past from its logo of a little bee, “which was raw, elementary, and a grassroots effort.” Its focus in 1996 was on Web sites related to business and economics; today, BEOnline+ draws upon catalogers in every division who are cataloging and providing links to selected Web sites in all subject areas.

MINERVA (Mapping the Internet Electronic Resources Virtual Archive) is saving today’s Web for tomorrow’s generation, said Jones. For example, during a four-month period, MINERVA captured 30,000 Web sites with 331 million Web pages relating to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and aftermath.

Web-site archivers tussle with a number of problems, ranging from technical standards to Web design standards, she said. “We’re trying to figure out what’s important to researchers in the future,” Jones said. “We don’t know what will be of interest, but we’re trying to collect it before it goes away.”

The presentations concluded with remarks by Cliff Cohen, Carolyn Brown, Diane Kresh, and Judith Mansfield, who commended the contributions of staff from their respective directorates to the BEAT family of projects.

—By Deborah Durham-Vichr

This article first appeared in the Library of Congress Gazette, Volume 13, No. 43 December 6, 2002

Additional summaries of the presentations by BEAT Team members can be reviewed here.

This page updated on May 1, 2003

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